Archive for June, 2013

What Startups Really Need

Posted: June 30, 2013 by Tony Shipley in Ecosystem, Leadership, Startup

tonyshipleyFor those people who are connected to our community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, you may remember the Regional Technology Initiative (RTI) created in 2001 that involved 200 people working for 100 days to create a master plan for entrepreneurial growth. Greater Cincinnati’s entrepreneurial spirit has grown phenomenally since then and the resources to support the goals have flourished.

So what do our region’s entrepreneurs really need to jump-start their businesses? Customers.

In every business, sales cures a lot of ills, and nothing of significance really happens until a company sells something. In startups creating sales is mission critical for success. Early customers provide tremendous value to startups. Sales provide much needed non-dilutive cash as it comes with no equity or debt strings attached. These transactions provide much needed validation that value exists in the product or service. No marketing study or survey can demonstrate that better than a customer exchanging their hard-earned dollars for a company’s product or service offering.

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aviramThe lessons of the new economy hold that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to get off and rapidly find a new mount. However, in traditional business, it is often difficult to let go of your investment in dead horses, which leads you to try other strategies to breach life into hopeless investments, such as:

  • Change riders
  • Buy a stronger whip
  • Harness several dead horses together for increased speed
  • Emulate the best practices of companies riding dead horses
  • Outsource the ridership of the horse
  • Affirm, “This is the way we have always ridden this horse.”
  • Change the requirements, declaring, “This horse is not dead.”
  • Perform a cost analysis to see if contractors can ride it cheaper.
  • Promote the dead horse to a management position.
  • Have the solicitors bring suit against the horse manufacturer.
  • Put out a news release that, in the unlikely event the horse is dead, it was dead before it ever came to the company.

A leader is one who does the right things, while a manager is one who does things right. In the new economy, leadership evolves to a new reconciliation of this polarity. It’s not enough to do the right things flawlessly; new economy CEOs must do it with conspicuous display of vision and character.

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jessica reading miamiIt’s summertime- for many it means amusement park season.  I remember anticipating a day at King’s Island- my friends and I would get up extra early, excited to take on the newest roller coaster. It may have only been a day long, but the only thing we talked about when we were leaving was when we were coming back.

Cincinnati’s entrepreneurial community is much like life in an amusement park.  The roller coasters, varied in size and thrill level, represent different startups.  The people, embarking on various rides for a period of time, function as the teams.  Some team members stick to one they like or others spend time riding each one.

It’s hard to make sense of this amusement park- why put people through fear and stomach-wrenching experiences and call it fun? Well for some- it’s the accomplishment of getting to the tallest peak and going upside down with their hands in the air.  For others, is being able to rely on each other to get through a tough challenge.

But who makes the most willing rider of all? It’s the student intern…and here’s why:

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Entrepreneurial Revolution

Posted: June 23, 2013 by Chuck Matthews in Ecosystem, Innovation, Startup

“During the past thirty years, America has unleashed the most revolutionary generation the nation has experienced since its founding in 1776. This new generation of entrepreneurs has altered permanently the economic and societal structure of this nation and the world, and it has set the “entrepreneurial genetic code” for future generations. It will determine, more than any other single impetus, how the nation and the world will live, work, learn, and lead in this century and beyond.  Jeffrey A. Timmons, 1998.

UC Chuck MatthewsAs we prepare to celebrate the 237th anniversary of our country’s independence on July 4th, the quote above from the late entrepreneur and scholar, Dr. Jeffrey Timmons, is especially timely.  It speaks eloquently and succinctly about the entrepreneurial spirit that has, is, and will continue to shape and reshape a powerful and transformative economic engine.

A Revolutionary Generation.  Mr. Donald “Buddy” LaRosa is the epitome of the revolutionary entrepreneurial generation that has transformed this country.  After serving in the U.S. Navy, getting married and starting his family, he started his first restaurant in Western Hills in 1954.  From humble beginnings, with just a few hundred dollars and a ton of determination, he built an innovative pizzeria business, overcame obstacles that would send mere mortals to the mat, and given back to the community in ways too many to count.  Husband, father, friend, entrepreneur, innovator, employer, mentor, philanthropist, philosopher, and more, he is one of the countless creators of the entrepreneurial revolution that continues to this day.  I had the honor to introduce and recognize one of Greater Cincinnati’s most recognizable entrepreneurial legends with the UC Lifetime Achievement Award in Entrepreneurship this past May 8th.  Entrepreneurs never stop challenging, building and giving.

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Attracting the Best

Posted: June 9, 2013 by Bill Hagerty in Culture, People, Startup

Bill HagertyIntangibles attract the best candidate.  They expect the tangibles – compensation, benefits.  From the very beginning of your search it is important to understand the intangibles your organization has to offer and to make certain they are consistently communicated.  Communicate them early and often – not in response to the candidate’s question but up front so they believe they truly are part of your culture and not just a convenient response to their questions.

The  three recurring themes I’ve heard in my practice whether I’ve been recruiting a Financial Controller or a Sales Executive are:

  1.  Will I have the chance to be involved in decision making?  They don’t need to make the decisions they simply want to know you have an environment where input is valued.
  2. Is there a mentor available?  Top shelf candidates, especially those early in their career, want to learn and they realize it is about having a willing, capable and active mentor.
  3. Is there an environment of professional flexibility?  They don’t want flex-time or to be treated differently than others. They want to know that throughout your organization professionals who are achieving and exceeding goals are free to occasionally veer from a standard schedule to meet a personal obligation.

Attracting the best into your interview process is important, but now can you close the deal?  Have you been gaining knowledge about each candidate’s real motivations since the beginning of the interview process?  No surprise, money is part of it but money is by far not the key motivation to change for a top performer. Why?  Because their current employer recognizes them as a top performer and compensates them competitively!

So how do you get them to open up and share their real motivations?  Open up yourself.  Move beyond the “About Us” and “Executive Profiles” sections of your website and share with them how you feel about your company and who you really are.  Move beyond the questions focusing on the “Required” and “Preferred” sections of the position profile and really endeavor to get to know them.  You’ll be much more successful in getting to know a top candidate’ motivations if they trust you, and for that they need to know you trust them.

Unless it is confidential information, share freely – about you, your company, the people they will meet in your interview process, the group they will be joining.  Under the theory of reciprocation they will share with you and you will begin to understand if you can, and should, close them on your opportunity.

BobGilbreathDespite gains in the stock market and broader economy, it is still a buyers job market. Most companies receive scores of applicants for any job opening. Entrepreneurs are especially cheered in our community for creating new jobs and offering people a chance to grow quickly. But we should not pat ourselves on the back for giving people a job—rather, we must continue giving to our new hires if we wish to scale up success.

When I writing regularly here six months ago, we were a two-person company. Back then, my biggest challenge was finding our first paying customer. Today we have 14 employees, and my biggest challenge is figuring out how to make sure that the people we hire are performing at their peak as soon as possible.

The change in mentality comes when you realize that you can no longer do it all by yourself. At that moment, a founder can choose one of two paths with new hires: Either use a command and control, dictatorial method to maximize personal involvement, or provide your employees with what they need to make the right decisions for the business. I have always had success in my career by choosing the latter, and I have found that giving three specific things leads to remarkable results:

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